How to Rough Out a Wood Carving

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A wooden rough out is a partly finished wood carving that lacks the detail work. Because starting with a rough out saves time, they are ideal for professional carvers who make a living selling their pieces. For beginners, roughed-out carvings are easier to work with because there’s less to do. Some wood carvers make a living selling only rough outs. Making a rough out requires the skill to carve a piece in such a way that the basic shape of the object is in place, but with plenty of room for another carver to add his personal style.

Things You'll Need

  • Power carver
  • Carving knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood
  • Sketch the object you want to rough out. Since you won’t be doing details in your carving, sketch only the profile of the subject of your carving. Do a sketch of your subject from both sides, front and back. You can work from a photograph as well, or even from memory if you have the ability to carve without following a guide. A sketch will keep you on track as you do your roughed-out carving.

  • Choose the wood type you want to use. Basswood and pine are easier woods to carve. Mahogany is more expensive and harder to carve, but the quality of the wood lends elegance to a final piece. If you’re new to carving, get started with cheaper, easier-to-carve wood.

  • Use a power carving tool such as a Dremel with a cutting attachment to bring out the rough shape of your subject. If, for instance, your subject is an elephant on a base, begin by carving the base of the sculpture first. Gradually work your way up, cutting away enough wood to form the rough shape of the elephant. Leave a little extra wood on the carving until you know how much you’ll need to take off to reach your desired proportions.

  • Use a carving knife to round out the lines of the elephant. Don’t add any of the wrinkles for the skin. Shape the base of the sculpture with your knife as well, giving it a rough finish but leaving room for another sculptor to carve the base with her own design idea.

  • Sand your roughed-out carving with a light grain sandpaper. You want a smooth, finished look. Do not add any type of stain or varnish, since this is going to be the basis for someone else to finish. Your piece should leave your shop looking finished except for the details and the final coat of paint or varnish.

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